On this day in 1961, Barack Hussein Obama II was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to an American mother and a Kenyan father. Now, 61 years later, Obama is one of the most recognizable figures in American history. As the first African American elected President of the United States, Obama trailblazed new paths in politics and elsewhere for minorities. Obama’s campaign slogans, “Yes we can!” and “Change we can believe in,” certainly came to fruition during his presidency. During his terms in 2008 and 2012, Obama made notable policy changes and reached milestones like the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Affordable Care Act, and the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court.
Obama found success in law and politics by placing a high value on education. When he was 10, Obama attended an elite private school, Punahou School, in Honolulu. In 1983, he graduated from Columbia University with a degree in political science. Later, in 1991, Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Obama’s political career took off in 1996 when he won the Illinois State Senate election. He was later reelected in 1998 and 2002. Just five years later, in 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. We know the steps Obama took leading up to his presidency. But what is he doing now in his life after politics? To celebrate Obama’s 61st birthday, here are seven notable things Obama has done since he stepped out of office.
1. He wrote his own memoir, A Promised Land.
After leaving the White House in 2017, Obama signed a record-setting book deal for his memoir, A Promised Land. Rather than using a ghost writer, Obama wrote the entire book himself. Employing the same method he used to write presidential speeches and his first book, Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote the book in longhand on legal pads. The memoir explores his first experience with politics up until his historic win in the 2008 presidential election. A Promised Land is expected to be the first book in a multi-volume series covering his entire political career.
President Obama is not the first in his immediate family to write an enormously popular book. His wife, Michelle, wrote her own book, Becoming, in 2018. Becoming has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful memoirs ever.
2. He signed a deal with Netflix.
In addition to their book deals, Barack and Michelle Obama also signed a deal with Netflix. Since 2018, the couple has helped to produce films for Netflix’s production company, Higher Ground Productions. When asked about the deal, Obama stated, “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all.”
One of their most popular productions was the 2020 debut of Becoming, a documentary that followed Michelle during her 2018 book tour. Later, in 2022, Obama hosted and narrated a Netflix docuseries called Our Great National Parks.
3. He’s won several honors and awards.
Obama’s most famous award, the Nobel Peace Prize, was given to him in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” However, Obama has continued to rack up honors and awards even after he stepped out of office.
In 2012, Obama was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for the second time. He also won the “Ambassador of Humanity” award from the University of Southern California and the “Make it Loud” award for supporting STEM education throughout his presidency. His most widely renowned award came from the John F. Kennedy Foundation. In May of 2017, Obama won the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” award for his introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which gave more than 20 million uninsured Americans health insurance.
4. He founded the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s South Side.
In May of 2017, Obama revealed his plan to build a future presidential center in Chicago. During a meeting with Chicago’s former mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Obama said, “What we want this to be is the world premiere institution for training young people and leadership to make a difference in their communities, in their countries and in the world.”
Obama’s plan includes a 225,000 square foot area that will feature three structures – including a museum, a public plaza, and a tree-lined walkway. The presidential center was anticipated to take about 4 years to build, but the COVID-19 pandemic has since altered the construction schedule. Hopefully, in the near future, we will see Obama’s hub for youth and other community programs come to life!
5. He continues to advocate for what he cares about.
Although Obama has commented very little on the actions of his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, Obama has ensured the public that he still cares about the policies he cared about while in office. During an interview with Prince Harry, Obama stated, “I still care about making sure that the United States and the world is a place where kids get a decent education. Where people who are willing to work hard are able to find a job that pays a living wage. That we’re conserving the amazing resources of our planet so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of this place. Like we did.”
Obama continues to advocate for the Affordable Care Act, gun control, COVID-19 vaccinations, and immigration policies on social media and during speeches.
6. He’s found time to travel.
Now that Obama has put his political career behind him, he’s made time to explore our beautiful earth. After leaving the White House, the former president went on a month-long adventure to French Polynesia. There, he was spotted hanging out with popular stars such as Oprah, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Hanks.
Obama has also spent time touring Europe for both work and pleasure. He’s been found golfing in Scotland, vacationing with Michelle in Italy, and discussing democracy in Berlin. In 2017, he took his wife and daughters, Malia and Sasha, on a trip to Bali, where he lived with his mother in 1967.
7. He moved his daughters into college.
Even with his title as former president, Obama is still a husband, a father, and a dog dad. He considers his wife and two daughters as his biggest pride and joy. During his time in the White House, he was often found with his two Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny, at his trail. Throughout his time in the spotlight, Obama has opened up about his experiences while raising his children, from how they’ve inspired and encouraged him to his embarrassing dad moments.
One of these “embarrassing dad moments” arose while moving his first daughter, Malia, into Harvard University in 2017. While organizing Malia’s dorm room, Barack was given the task of assembling a desk lamp.
“It should have taken three or five minutes… It only had, like, four parts,” Obama explained in an interview with David Letterman. “I’m sitting there and I’m just toiling away at this thing, and it’s taken half an hour. Meanwhile, Michelle had finished scrubbing and she’s organizing closets and all this, and I was just pretty pathetic.”
Obama also revealed how emotional he became after Malia was out of sight. “I held it together in front of Malia and then we drove away. Secret Service is in the front, and they’re just looking ahead. They’re pretending they can’t see me in the back sniffling.”
Malia graduated from Harvard University in 2021. Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, is currently attending school at the University of Southern California.
Happy 61st Birthday, Obama! Regardless of your political views, Obama’s career offers an important lesson in being proud of where you came from, aiming high, and never losing sight of who is most important to you. If you’re interested in reading Obama’s favorite books from 2021, go to Bookstr.